Megan Cowles' friends envy her good luck.

"Everyone wants my job," she says.

This summer, her employer is taking her to Paris, where she'll see the Eiffel Tower, stroll along the Seine and eat buttery, melt-in-your-mouth croissants for breakfast.

Her wonder job?

She's a home-care worker. Her employer, a 76-year-old Orange County woman, is so grateful for her help that she's taking her to Paris on a vacation.


Part 1: How to choose a caregiver


"She's very excited about it," Cowles said. "She took me to the movies to see 'Midnight in Paris' and pointed out all the places we'd see."

Generally speaking, home-care workers have a rough lot. The pay is rock-bottom, the job is difficult and the perks are usually nonexistent. But that's not always true. Some employers are so appreciative that they reward workers with unexpected dividends.

One family I know gave their parents' caregiver free rent for more than a year after their mom and dad died. She'd cared for the elderly couple with compassion and kindness for 10 years.

Another woman was given a car by a grateful family; many home-care workers receive bonuses at holidays and birthdays.

It's not necessary to reward workers with large gifts, say experts, but it is important to develop a good working relationship.

It all starts with respect, says Debra Cherry, clinical psychologist and executive vice president of the Alzheimer's Assn. in Los Angeles.

Cherry, who wrote a workbook for the organization called "How to Hire and Train Help in the Home," recommends employers relay their expectations from the beginning.

"If you expect a worker to keep an eye on someone or to clean the house or to do hands-on bodily care, let them know specifically what you want," she says. "As time goes by, adjust the duties as needed, but always discuss them with the employee."

She said the organization has found that many problems develop because workers didn't expect to do the things employers want them to do.

Whenever you add a new task, be specific about how you want it done. For instance, if your dad likes his eggs cooked a certain way, take the time to make sure the worker knows how to prepare them.

Experts advise a five-step training process for in-home workers:

— Tell them how to do the task, writing down step-by-step instructions if necessary.

— Show them how to do it.